The scandal is just another in a long list of government failures to earn the trust of working-class families. The problem will not be rectified overnightby Tola Onanuga / August 20, 2020 / Leave a comment
When the A-level results were released in England last week it quickly became clear the government had failed its own test to create a fair and balanced grading system. The algorithm built by exams regulator Ofqual and heartily supported by ministers, resulted in the downgrading of nearly 40 per cent of the grades predicted by teachers. To make matters worse, it was poorer students who were impacted the most. Data showed that the results of those from socio-economic backgrounds fell by a larger margin than their better-off peers after moderation.
Ofqual has rightly shared the blame with the beleaguered education secretary, Gavin Williamson—but it should not be forgotten that the government has a long and shameful history of failing working-class people. From harsh austerity measures to Covid-19 disparities, the government has continually demonstrated a lack of empathy for the less well-off. This failure has fuelled this entirely preventable exams saga, which left young people fearing for their futures.
Ofqual’s algorithm was ostensibly designed to make the grading process equitable for a cohort of students who have been unable to sit exams due to the pandemic. Teachers were asked to make assessments of all their pupils and the results were then put through the algorithm. This was apparently done because Ofqual thought teachers were likely to be more generous in assigning an estimated mark, which could lead to grade inflation.
Despite mounting criticism, government ministers doubled down for days and insisted there would be no significant changes to the system. On Monday, however, Williamson did indeed make a U-turn and accepted it had produced more “significant inconsistencies” than could be rectified through an appeals process. He pledged to allow the original teacher assessments to stand. While the decision was largely met with relief, many students remain annoyed and frustrated at the overall handling of the situation. It’s clear that regaining the trust of working-class students and their families, who have been treated with contempt throughout the process, will not be an easy task.
When the true scale of the algorithm’s bias was revealed, dismayed students wrote to Ofqual and the Department for Education urging them to change the unfair procedures. Many were sceptical from the start about the government’s commitment to “fairness,” which is understandable given that…